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Expats: No Work Permit, No Labor Rights

Shanghai's Labor and Social Security Bureau has warned expatriates to make sure they have a work permit before taking a job in the city, otherwise they will have no way to protect their labor rights.

The Shanghai Daily reported the bureau's advice after a German musician found he was not entitled to their help when the club he worked for unilaterally terminated his employment.

Rolf Becker signed a contract with Club Shanghai, a restaurant on the fourth floor of the Shanghai Concert Hall, on December 16 to work as musical director for its large orchestra.

Becker said the club managers promised to apply for a work permit for him but said it would take about one month to get materials ready and have the permit finally granted.

"My husband soon prepared all the personal materials, such as the visa and medical certificates," said his wife, Amira Becker. "But they just didn't do their part."

Last month, Becker asked to take a day off to see the dentist about a toothache. He said he notified his manager about it at 5 PM, three hours before he was to begin work.

A few days later, however, his boss dismissed him, saying he had left work without formally applying for a leave of absence. He was told his contract would be terminated two days later on January 19.

"We can't understand such a sudden contract termination with such unacceptable reasons," Becker's wife said. "Even if my husband was fired for a proper reason, the club should give him one month's notice and pay him a month's salary as severance."

Joyce Yu, an assistant manager at Club Shanghai, insisted that it was Becker who first violated the contract by repeatedly leaving work early. Therefore the club doesn't have any responsibility to pay compensation, she said.

Yu said the permit application was delayed because the top boss was out of town, so the club couldn't get the required materials ready.

The German couple turned to the local labor arbitration department for help but were rejected.

Zhang Yuan, a bureau official, said that only expats with a government-granted work permit are covered by the city's labor regulations.

(Shanghai Daily February 8, 2005)

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